Bobby Ryan was supposed to just get his feet wet in this year’s Calder Cup playoffs, but the rookie dove right into the action for the Portland Pirates.
Ryan had the go-ahead goal in Wednesday’s critical 5-3 win in Game 6 and also set up the fourth goal that put Portland ahead 4-1 in the third period.
“Bobby’s game is slowly picking up, and he’s establishing himself,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen. “I think he’s a young, intelligent and a very respectful young man. What he’s done is to slowly integrate himself into the team.”
Ryan is a 19-year-old from Camden, N.J. He has played the last three seasons for Owen Sound in the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by Anaheim second overall, behind Sidney Crosby, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a tryout contract with the Pirates to play this season but will either have to stick with Anaheim next year or be returned to junior hockey.
“I’ve come for some big games and (Wednesday) was one of them,” said Ryan. “Hopefully, I can do that down the stretch for these guys.”
Ryan’s OHL team was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals. He finished the regular season with 95 points (31 goals and 64 assists). Making the jump to the pro level and a new team in the championship hunt wasn’t easy, but Ryan has played steadily and has slowly begun to make his presence known.
“I think some of his teammates have grabbed him and told him to, Step up kid and start leading this charge,'” said Dineen. “He’s bought in and done a great job.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the second period Wednesday, Ryan came around the net to the left circle. Instead of centering a pass, he fired on net and beat Frederic Cassivi.
“Zenon Konopka and Pierre Parenteau are two guys I sit with all the time,” said Ryan. “They’ve said, You’re making great moves and you’re getting chances, but you’ve got to shoot a little more.’ Everybody knows I like to pass and dish off. They told me that maybe I can catch them off guard and fire a few on net. They told me to raise my game, and that’s why I was a little more confident maybe.”
Ryan is 6-foot-1, 221 pounds. In addition to being a big, strong, and poised, he’s got an excellent shot. Something he proved with on his first professional goal and did again later in that game when his shot was saved by Cassivi. Tim Brent put in the rebound for the 4-1 lead.
“That’s his shot,” said Dineen. “That’s why he’s going to play in the NHL for a lot of years because of those magic hands.”
Back in business
It had been New Year’s Eve since Brent had scored a goal for the Portland Pirates. After ringing in the new year with a shoulder injury suffered in a loss to Hartford Jan. 16, he didn’t return to the lineup until April and has just been getting his game back during the playoffs.
The Cambridge, Ontario native netted his first goal since December in last Tuesday’s 3-2 win, scoring the game-winner early in the third period. He added two more goals off rebounds to turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 advantage on Wednesday.
“Tim will be the first one to tell you that he was ready for a breakout,” said Dineen. “He’s a guy that can identify a moment to make a statement as a team. It’s also to got come through individual effort, and Tim was certainly up to that challenge.”
Brent had five goals and 13 assists in 46 games with Cincinnati last year, and had 15 goals and nine assists in 37 regular season games this year.
This Eastern Conference Final is evolving much like Hershey’s trip to the Calder Cup in 1997, and that’s good news for the Pirates. Hershey was down 2-0 in the first two games of that conference final against Springfield. After back-to-back losses at home, the Bears overcame a two-goal deficit to win Game 3.
The Bears then lost Game 4 and were down 3-1 in the series before roaring back with wins in Game 5 and 6. Sound familiar? Hershey won the series in Game 7, but the Bears had that game at home, whereas Portland has to repeat that feat on the road.
“For your entertainment dollar, I don’t know what a ticket costs – $10 or $20 – whatever it is, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck,” said Dineen. “That is some entertainment going on out there. The intensity is just flying. We have very worthy opponents. We’ve got some heroes, and it’s got all the storylines.”